first_img MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Stay on target Is Valerian good?Yes. It’s messy, it’s awkward, it’s bizarrely constructed and at points verges over into weirdly “problematic;” but also ingenious, ambitious and occasionally brilliant. There are more ideas in a single chase sequence in this movie than in the entirety of most other films I’ve seen this Summer.What’s it about?Based on a long-running series of French-language graphic novels, Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevigne are Valerian and Laureline, a sort-of romantically partnered pair of special agents who discover that a magic MacGuffin they were tasked with fetching at the story’s beginning is at the center of shadowy dark-dealings surrounding a supposed “evil force” growing in the depths of the massive space-city Alpha – where hundreds of thousands of diverse species from across the galaxy exist in a chaotic but sustained relative peace that threatens to be ripped apart unless they can uncover exactly what’s going on – up to and including which “side” they’re actually supposed to be on.Is the plot confusing?Not really. The film is practically tripping over its own feet in a rush to reveal what’s actually going on, possibly because someone got worried that too many unanswered questions would distract from the main point. Instead, they opted for showing off all the different aliens, technology, “neighborhoods” and big cosmic ideas the film is clearly more interested in than the fairly standard-issue space-police story.  And even if you do get “lost” just remember that this is 21st Century sci-fi so whoever looks like an analog for a present-day Western military power is probably bad. And whoever looks like a (somewhat condescending) analog for indigenous victims of Colonialism is probably good, and you’ll be right back on track.Who’s behind it?French auteur and producer/mogul Luc Besson, a longtime fan of the original Valerian & Laureline comics for whom the film is a quasi-follow-up to his similar late-90s sci-fi cult-classic The Fifth Element. The film is one of the most expensive features in the history of France’s homegrown film industry, and was independently financed by a global team of investors to grant Besson full creative autonomy.What’s the best reason to see it?Honestly? The opening scene. The first five minutes or so are some of the most beautiful visual storytelling anyone has put to film in decades and one of the most forward-looking and optimistic streams of sound and imagery the medium has been used to depict – ever. Essentially an expository montage demonstrating how, over the course of centuries, the present-day Space Program might (through cooperation and mutual respect) grow beyond the borders of a nation. Species might ultimately form an idealized intergalactic melting-pot megalopolis of the title. It’s an all but wordless vision somewhere in tone between The Martian’s onward-and-upward futurism and Guardians of The Galaxy’s heartfelt humanism that seamlessly bridges the hopes of the Space Age with the dreams of pulp-era science fiction to a degree not even the best of Star Trek ever has ever quite managed. It’s the most visually beautiful and thematically awe-inspiring piece of pure cinema that Luc Besson has produced in the entirety of his career: His masterpiece. The single stretch of film he deserves to be remembered for.Wow! And the rest of it?Not as good. Not even close, really – but then nothing was going to be.What’s the biggest problem?“Valerian” himself, unfortunately: Dehaan doesn’t quite work in the lead. Granted, Besson has never been an actor’s director, and this feels very much like a movie where the instruction was “hit your mark, read your dialogue, affect a persona mostly via attitude” and – surprise! – Delevigne (a professional model) pulls it off where her co-star seems to struggle. Going with ultra young-looking leads for Valerian and Laureline also feels “off” at times. It seems designed to make the outdated pulp-hero tough-guy “aggressive flirting” play less dodgy than it might have with grown-ups in 2017 (Dehaan trying to do “roguish scoundrel” mostly looks like a ten-year-old doing his impression of Star Lord) but once the plot calls for him to play the jaded seen-it-all tough guy it doesn’t quite land. The seeds of a movie star are there with this kid, but he’s not there yet.How is Rihanna?Good, but underutilized. Her character (a shape-shifting jellyfish-like alien working as an exotic dancer) is a scene-stealer, but she’s only around for a few minutes in an unnecessary subplot that mostly feels added to include her character. Her backstory is also weirdly dark, and ends up feeling cruel and off-putting when paired with her role ultimately being a plot-device.But you recommend it?I do, yes. It’s a genuinely visionary work of art that falls short mainly by shooting higher than any one film could reasonably manage. It’s beautiful, imaginative, creative, ingenious and takes aesthetic risks that are worth applauding all on their own. Even when they contribute to some parts of the film being draggy and messy. Valerian is a pure-energy delight that feels like it should have been more but still brings more to the table than most other blockbusters you’re likely to see this year.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img